Monday, September 27, 2018
Jesus said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” – Luke 14:12-14
Sometimes the teachings of Christ seem rather radical, often unrealistic, and usually inconvenient. This is teaching about invitations to banquets is one of those teachings but it speaks volumes about the ethos of the Christian Way of living. We are to be open to others. We are to be sharing with not only close friends but also friends we have yet to come to know. We are to be reaching out to those in need. We are to be seeking our reward not in temporal and earthly forms but in eternal and heavenly forms.
Yet … this inviting the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind to a banquet seems so very unreasonable without understanding what a giving a banquet meant in the times of Christ. A banquet was a community event, by definition a sharing of a communal experience. Yet, it could be an exclusive event, only the preferred were invited and those “others” kept outside. But Christ calls for a community banquet to be an inclusive event, all are invited with no one kept outside the doors.
Early in my ministry, I observed racism practiced in what is meant to be a sacred banquet. I served one of those churches that had one of those invisible signs on the doors, ‘WHITES ONLY”. It was a small town, a segregated town, and everyone knew the “unspoken rules” about the mixing of racial diversity. It was World Communion Sunday in the mid-70s. As the worship service began in walked a young African-American man, a new teacher at the high school. I could feel the hush and the stares. When it came time for the congregation to take their turns kneeling at the communion rail, the ushers ushered the young man out the side door. I think I was never so ashamed of the church.
That was over forty years ago … and I think we have made some progress in understanding how such practice exposed a sinfulness deeply embedded in our society. But, my Loved Ones, this sin of excluding some from the banquet … still lingers in one form or another.
Always in Christ’s Service,
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz